Mailing or shipping small boxes and parcels is fairly straightforward—in most cases, you can simply drop them off at your local post office or courier. Shipping large boxes, on the other hand, is a little more complicated. USPS and courier services like FedEx® and UPS® have strict weight and size limits and can quickly become too costly for large packages, especially if your boxes are also heavy or if they are travelling a long distance.
So, what’s the best way to ship large boxes?
If you’re shipping or moving large boxes, you likely fall into one of two categories:
- Business owners looking to ship large boxes to customers, the next step in your supply chain, or another location in your network.
- Homeowners shipping large boxes as part of a household move, including small apartment moves, college moves, estate distributions, and full household moves.
There are several ways for business and homeowners to move or ship large boxes across the country. Read our comprehensive large box shipping guide to learn about six shipping methods, or use the menu below to jump right to special considerations, mistakes to avoid, and detailed packing instructions.
Read about common ways to ship large boxes, including pros and cons and when to use each method.
The cost of shipping large boxes depends on what shipping method you choose.
Moving locally or long distance? Find out which shipping method is best for your move.
There's more to shipping large boxes than loading everything into a box and taping it shut.
Keep your belongings safe throughout the moving process by avoiding these mistakes.
Pack your large boxes the right way with our step-by-step instructions.
1. How To Ship Large Boxes
There are six ways you can ship large boxes across the country:
- United States Postal Service (USPS)
- Courier shipping (UPS®, FedEx®)
- Rent a truck and move yourself
- Hire professional movers
- Rideshare or peer-to-peer shipping
- Consolidated freight
Before you commit to a shipping method, always measure and weigh your box. Knowing the size and weight will help you narrow down your options.
How to measure a large box
- Measure the longest side—this is the length.
- Measure the thickest part—this is the girth.
- Add the length and girth to get the total measurement.
Length + Girth = Total size of box
Anything under 70 lbs, less than 108” in length, and less than 165” in girth can typically shipped by USPS.
Packages between 70-150 lbs are often best shipped using courier services like FedEx or UPS. Anything over 150 lbs will need to be shipped by freight.
If your large box doesn’t fit into any of these categories, the best shipping method may not be so clear-cut. Let’s take a closer look at each of the methods listed above:
I. United States Postal Service (USPS)
The United States Postal Service (USPS) sells cartons up to 20” x 14” x 10”, and offers a couple of service levels suitable for large boxes.
Priority Mail packages ship in 1-3 business days depending on the origin and destination. Shipments cannot exceed 70 lbs, and must be under 108” in combined length and girth.
Flat Rate pricing means that you don’t need to weigh or calculate costs for sending packages under 70 lbs. Shipping supplies are also included. If you want to use your own boxes, regional and prepaid pricing are also available at retail outlets.
Priority Mail Express
Priority Mail Express typically ships in 1-2 business days. Overnight delivery can be guaranteed for an extra fee, but the only way to truly guarantee your package will be shipped on the same day is to drop it off at the post office instead of scheduling a pickup. Similar to Priority Mail, packages cannot exceed 70lbs.
Priority Mail Express is a popular choice for businesses, who can streamline payments by charging all overnight shipments to one account.
USPS Retail Ground
USPS Retail Ground is only available at the post office. This service is ideal for less-than-urgent deliveries and oversized packages that are too large for Priority Mail or Priority Mail Express. The maximum weight for USPS Retail Ground shipments is also 70 lbs, but boxes can be up to 130” in combined length and girth, in which case they may be subject to oversize pricing.
|Most services can be set up online||Not suitable for boxes over 70 lbs|
|May be cheaper than other shipping methods||Large, lightweight packages will be subject to oversize pricing|
|Free package pickup, depending on service level||Least reliable for time-sensitive shipments|
|Includes basic insurance, depending on service level||May need to purchase additional insurance for high-value packages|
|Overnight delivery is usually available for an additional fee||Tracking is not available for all packages, and is less detailed than courier service|
|International shipping is available|
How much does it cost to ship large boxes using USPS?
The cost of your shipment will depend on its size, weight, the distance it will travel, and your service level.
- Priority Mail: Small flat rate boxes (8 11/16” x 5 7/16” x 1 ¾”) cost $7.90 ($7.50 commercial base). Medium flat rate (starting at 11 ¼” x 8 ¾” x 6”) cost $14.35 ($12.80 commercial base). Large flat rate boxes (12 ¼” x 12 ¼” x 6”) cost $19.95 ($17.60 commercial base). If you use your own boxes, regional box prices will depend on the weight and distance travelled.
- Priority Mail Express: Starts at $25.50 per package ($22.68 commercial base).
- USPS Retail Ground: Starts at $7.35 per package.
Variable pricing will apply to any packages that are not subject to USPS Flat Rate pricing, and will depend on the weight and zone. Large, lightweight packages will also be subject to oversize pricing.
When to ship large boxes using USPS
- Slightly larger packages under 108” and weighing up to 70 lbs
- One-time shipments of single boxes
- Businesses with recurring shipments
- Non-urgent timelines
II. Courier shipping
Courier shipping services are provided by familiar names like FedEx®, UPS®, or DHL®. These carriers will typically accept packages weighing up to 150 lbs, measuring up to 108” long, or up to 165” in combined length and girth. They can also transport oversize packages (subject to additional charges).
Express delivery options are also available, and you may be able to add packing services for an additional fee. This makes courier shipping an ideal choice for retailers shipping merchandise to customers, as well as homeowners looking to ship a few time sensitive boxes to a new home.
If you are considering courier services for your large boxes, you will need to be aware of something called “dimensional weight”. Parcel shipments are typically priced based on how much they weigh, but the space they take up on the truck will also impact the cost of your shipment, especially if you’re moving bulkier items like large boxes. Dimensional weight more accurately reflects the density of your shipment—in other words, the amount of space it takes up in relation to its actual weight.
How to calculate dimensional weight
Measure the package dimensions to calculate the cubic size in inches:
L x W x H = cubic size
Then, divide the cubic size by the specific dimensional weight divisor determined by your parcel shipping service to calculate dimensional weight. You may need to ask your shipping provider for this information.
|Faster—expedited shipping options are available||Package pick up options are typically limited—you may have to take your boxes to a store to ship|
|More reliable for time-sensitive shipments than USPS||Can be expensive to ship oversized boxes or boxes over 150lbs|
|Can include professional packing and crating||Can be costly for time sensitive shipments|
|Can include additional insurance||Your boxes are out of your control from pickup to delivery|
|Volume shippers, such as retailers, may be able to negotiate volume discounts||May not include sufficient insuranc|
How much does it cost to ship large boxes using courier shipping services?
The cost of courier shipping is based on the level of service you choose and the distance your package is travelling. Next-day or expedited shipments will cost significantly more than regular ground freight, no matter how they are packed.
For example, a 50 lb box travelling from Austin TX to Portland OR, starts at $83 for delivery within 4 business days. The price increases depending on the speed of delivery, reaching up to $425 for next-day delivery. In comparison, a 120 lb box travelling from Austin to Portland starts at $175 for delivery within 4 days, reaching up to $989 for next day morning delivery.
With a longer delivery window, courier shipping is typically cheaper than USPS Priority Mail. However, for shipments under 5 lbs, USPS Priority Mail will be cheaper using a Flat Rate large box. For shipments over 5 lbs, you’re likely better off using courier services.
When to ship large boxes using courier services
- One-time shipments
- Retailers shipping small purchases to customers
- Homeowners shipping less than 5 large boxes
- Packages between 70 and 150 lbs
- Packages larger than 108” but smaller than 165”
- Same-day or next-day deliveries
III. Rent a truck and move yourself
If you’re moving large boxes as part of a household move, you have the option of renting a truck and moving them yourself.
Renting a moving truck and transporting your belongings yourself is a popular option for small or short-distance moves. This method is ideal for those who don’t have much stuff to move, aren’t moving far, and who have the ability to load and unload their belongings.
Loading large boxes onto the moving vehicle
Loading large boxes strategically can help maximize your truck space and minimize the amount of work you have to do. Follow these tips:
- Lift boxes properly—bend and lift from your legs, not from your back.
- Start by loading large, heavy appliances, then load longer items like couches or beds.
- Load boxes after large items of furniture, taking care to secure the boxes in place, and ensuring that you don’t load anything too heavy on top.
- Load boxes in layers, with each layer independently secured as best as you can.
- Place heavier boxes on the bottom, and load lighter boxes on top.
- Drape blanket pads over exposed surfaces to keep them safe from scratches or other damage.
|Can be more cost-effective than hiring movers for local moves||You are entirely responsible for packing and loading your boxes and other belongings|
|Your belongings remain in your care the entire time||Larger boxes can be difficult to lift and move|
|You can move on your own timeline||Can be dangerous to pack some belongings in the back of a very hot or very cold truck|
|Can be expensive for long distance moves, particularly if you are moving lots of stuff|
|No insurance included|
How much does it cost to rent a truck and move large boxes?
The cost of renting a vehicle and moving yourself will depend on the size of the vehicle and the distance of your move. In addition to a day rate based on the size of the vehicle, you’ll also be responsible for fuel and mileage charges, as well as any additional charges for moving supplies and insurance. If you’re moving long distance, you may even need to pay extra to leave the truck in a different city than where you picked it up.
- Day rates typically range between $19.99-$29.99 per day for a 10’-17’ truck, or $29.99-$39.99 for a 20’-26’ truck.
- Mileage often ranges between $0.69-$0.79 per mile during the week and up to $0.99 per mile on weekends, and can be higher during peak moving season.
When should I rent a truck and move my own boxes?
- As part of a local or short distance move, when budget is a higher priority than time
IV. Hiring professional movers
Hiring professional movers is another option for household moves. This method is ideal for larger local moves, or for those who don’t have the physical ability to move themselves (or those who just don’t want the hassle). Professional movers may even offer packing services for an additional fee.
MOVING TIP: If you don’t pay extra for packing services, be sure to have all your boxes packed and sealed before your movers arrive so they can move quickly (and save you money). Label your boxes clearly, especially ones that contain fragile items, so movers can take the appropriate precautions when moving, and so they can put them in the right spot when they unload.
If you’re considering professional movers, call at least three moving companies for a quote. Some moving companies base their prices more on distance, while others place more emphasis on how much stuff you have. Be prepared with an accurate idea of how many boxes they will need to move.
|Professional movers know how to handle large boxes, and will load them onto the truck properly||Professional movers won’t pack your boxes unless you pay extra for packing services|
|No heavy lifting—the pros will load and unload all of your stuff||Can be costly for long distance moves|
|May include professional packing materials for your other household items||Professional movers may not be able to insure boxes you have packed yourself|
How much does it cost to hire professional movers?
The cost of your move will depend on how far you’re moving and how much stuff you’re bringing with you. According to the American Moving and Storage Association, the average local move costs around $2,300, while the average long distance move costs about $4,300.
When should I hire professional movers?
- Larger local moves, such as a full household move
- If you don’t have the ability to load or unload your belongings but are able to pack your own boxes
V. Rideshare or peer-to-peer shipping
When you ship your large boxes using rideshare or peer-to-peer shipping services, your boxes will be transported by a shipping partner who is travelling in the same direction.
To connect with a shipping partner, you will post your shipment on an online marketplace like Roadie or uShip. Be prepared with accurate weight and dimensions when you post your box shipment, as well as dates and locations of pickup and delivery. The more details you can provide, the better. Potential partners will then bid on your shipment. They could be a larger logistics company, a single truck owner/operator, or even a roadtripper. It’s up to you to vet your options and negotiate your shipping rate.
When you start getting bids, ask a lot of questions so you can get an idea of each potential partner’s response time and their ability to safely transport your goods. Before you commit, look at their carrier or account profile to review their transport history, safety records, and customer feedback.
|May be cheaper for long distance moves||You may not be working with a professional—there’s no guarantee of expertise or experience, and there’s less accountability if something goes wrong|
|Opportunity to vet potential shipping partners||Need to pack your boxes yourself|
|No weight or size limits—can be used to ship just about any type of large item||May need to provide loading and unloading assistance|
|May not be able to track your shipment|
|No insurance if your shipment gets damaged|
How much does it cost to ship a painting using peer-to-peer shipping?
Peer-to-peer shipping costs can vary, and are often negotiable depending on the size of your shipment, how many boxes you’re shipping, and the level of involvement you require from your shipping partner.
The cost of shipping large boxes will depend on the combined weight and dimensions of your boxes, as well as the total distance of travel. According to uShip, the average cost of a long distance shipment of large boxes is about $1.50 per mile. For shipments of more than 6 boxes, you can expect anywhere between $550-$700 or more.
When should I use peer-to-peer shipping to transport large boxes?
- If you are shipping a few other large items in addition to boxes
- If you are shipping more than two large boxes, but less than 10
- If you are shipping small or medium-sized boxes
VI. Consolidated freight
When you ship large boxes using consolidated freight, your boxes will share space on the truck with other items heading in the same direction.
Consolidated freight shipping services are always provided by licensed and insured shipping companies. The best consolidated freight providers will connect you with an experienced shipping company that specializes in transporting your items. This may include:
- Temperature-controlled vehicles
- Loading and unloading by hand (instead of by forklift)
- Add-on services, such as packing services to ensure that your large boxes are packed properly.
There are typically two service levels available:
- LTL/Economy: You pack your boxes yourself, and help with curbside loading and unloading. Prices start around $360 depending on the weight and number of boxes. With lower prices and faster delivery, LTL service is ideal for items that are not overly fragile or valuable.
- White Glove: Includes indoor pickup and delivery. No heavy machinery like forklifts will be used to move your boxes, making White Glove service ideal for boxes containing fragile or valuable items. However, timeframes for delivery are much longer, and this level of service is more expensive, starting at $650.
LTL shipping is ideal for shipments of more than 15 boxes. In these cases, boxes are typically packed onto a pallet for easier shipping. Pallet shipping is also more secure, and ensures that your boxes stay together throughout their journey.
Shipping less than 15 boxes?
You need TSI’s Box Program. We’ll deliver the boxes and labels directly to your door so you can pack them on your own time. Once they’re packed, we’ll return to pick them up, and will deliver them anywhere within the continental USA.
Ideal for: Clothes and linens, books, non-valuable household goods
We offer three levels of service:
- Silver: Includes boxes, curb-to-curb pickup and delivery, and $50 insurance coverage per box. Starts at $367 for up to 5 boxes.
- Gold: Includes boxes, door-to-door pickup and delivery, and $100 insurance coverage per box. Starts at $414 for up to 5 boxes.
- Platinum: Includes boxes, indoor pickup and delivery, evening and Saturday pickup and delivery if requested, storage up to 30 days, and $200 insurance coverage per box. Starts at $574 for up to 5 boxes.
Learn more about TSI’s Box Program.
|Safe—you can trust experienced professionals to handle your boxes properly in a controlled environment||Longer timelines, unless you pay for expedited shipping|
|Convenient—no need to find space in your rented moving vehicle to safely pack boxes||Does not always include packing and loading services|
|Easy to coordinate pick up and delivery|
|Includes basic insurance|
|Can include temporary storage|
|No weight or size limits|
How much does it cost to ship large boxes using consolidated freight?
The cost of shipping boxes using consolidated freight will depend on what level of service you choose, as well as how many boxes you are shipping. TSI’s Box Program starts at $367 for up to 5 boxes.
When should I use consolidated freight to move my large boxes?
- Larger household moves
- Long distance moves
- Shipments of any size
- If you need help with packing or crating
Shipping large boxes?
TSI can help with any size shipment.
2. How Much Does it Cost to Ship Large Boxes?
The cost of shipping your large boxes will depend on what shipping method you choose:
|United States Postal Service||Starts at $19.95 for large Flat Rate boxes|
|Courier shipping (FedEx®, UPS®, DHL®)||Depends on size and weight of package, the level of service, and speed of delivery.|
|Renting a truck and moving yourself||Depends on size of vehicle and distance of move|
|Hiring professional movers||Depends on size and distance of move; approximately $4,300|
|Peer-to-peer shipping||Depends on size of boxes and how many pieces you’re shipping; typically between $550 and $700+|
|Consolidated freight||Depends on weight and size of what’s being shipped; starts at $360 for LTL and $650 for White Glove service|
3. Recommended Shipping Method
For local or short distance moves, we recommend hiring professional movers. For small moves, you can likely manage with a rented moving truck.
For long distance or larger household moves, we recommend consolidated freight. Consolidated freight carriers are pre-vetted and licensed, so you can rest assured that your boxes will be transported safely.
The best consolidated freight providers will offer personalized shipping services that are tailored to your cargo, including how many boxes you need to ship, whether you need supplies, or if you require assistance packing. They will also connect you with a shipping company that specializes in transporting your items, and will be able to arrange for varying levels of service depending on what you are shipping, from lower-cost LTL shipments to premium White Glove Service. LTL service starts around $360 depending on the weight and number of boxes, while White Glove service typically starts around $650.
4. Special Considerations for Shipping Large Boxes
What exactly is a “large” box?
As a general rule, a large box is about the size of a large suitcase. The most common size is 18” x 18” x 24”, but larger boxes—and even extra large boxes measuring up to 24” x 18” x 24”—are also available.
Large boxes are typically ideal for bulky, lightweight items such as:
- Stereo speakers
- Board games
- Towels and linens
- Small appliances
With adequate padding and proper packing, anything can be packed into a large box, including heavier or delicate items. Be sure to check the weight limit on the bottom of any large boxes—some boxes may have a lower weight limit than you might expect.
There’s more to packing and shipping large boxes than simply loading everything into the box and taping it shut. Keep these considerations in mind when you pack:
Large boxes should be full, but not heavy. If possible, large boxes should not exceed 50 lbs so that you can move them without serious risk of injury, especially if you will need to lift them yourself to transport them to the post office, load them onto your moving vehicle, or get them to and from the curbside for LTL shipping.
Boxes that are too heavy are also at greater risk of damage. Most moving boxes will list a weight limit on the bottom of the box. Always check before packing a box so you don’t exceed its weight limit.
Your box should be slightly larger than what you are packing or shipping to allow space for enough packing materials to prevent shifting and breakage. When in doubt, use a larger box and ensure that you’ve sufficiently packed and padded the contents.
Number of boxes
The more boxes you have to ship, the more your shipment will cost. Shipments of single large boxes are typically best shipped by post or courier, depending on their weight. Larger shipments of 3 or more boxes are ideal for peer-to-peer shipping or consolidated freight. For delicate or valuable belongings, opt for consolidated freight.
Contents of boxes
Whatever you are transporting, it’s important that it is packed properly to prevent shifting or damage from impact. Large boxes are ideal for packing light items so that they are easy to carry. Bulky but heavy items like books, on the other hand, are best packed into smaller boxes—their weight can add up quickly, making the box impossible to carry and significantly increasing the risk of damage and injury.
Boxes containing valuable, fragile, or antique items should only be handled by professionals who know how to transport these items. In this case, consolidated freight is typically your best choice.
Boxes packed by yourself can’t be insured for much. If you are transporting fragile or valuable items, it’s best to let the professionals pack your box. That way, they can be insured for the proper value and you’ll be covered in case of damage.
Double boxing—packing a smaller box into a larger box—is ideal for shipping fragile or valuable items. After you pack the small box according to what you are transporting, layer packing materials into the bottom of a large box. Place the small box inside, then secure it in place using more packing materials.
If you are a retailer, providing an enjoyable unboxing experience can go a long way to ensuring your customers have a satisfying encounter with your company. Always use clean, new boxes, and opt for plain packing paper or bubble wrap over crumpled magazine pages, newspaper, or packing peanuts.
5. Mistakes to Avoid when Shipping Large Boxes
- Packing too full: Just because you can fit 100 lbs of stuff into a box doesn’t mean you should. Moving and shipping boxes are designed to hold a certain amount of weight. Exceeding the recommended limit can strain or injure your back, and the box itself may even tear or disintegrate. As a general rule, large boxes should never exceed 70 lbs, and they should be able to close easily. Overstuffed boxes can burst during a move.
- Not using appropriate padding: Boxes should be tightly packed so nothing can shift around inside the box in transit. Line the bottom of the box with crumpled packing paper or bubble wrap, then pad the sides and around each object using the same materials as you fill the box. Avoid packing peanuts—they’re hard on the environment, and will settle to the bottom of the box, where they will essentially be useless.
- Packing the wrong items: Some items should never be packed into boxes, especially if they will be in transit for long periods, including food, liquids, and hazardous materials. Fragile items like electronics or artwork can be packed into boxes, as long as they are packed safely.
- Not lifting boxes properly: Lift from your legs, not with your back. Don’t twist while you’re carrying a large or heavy item, and don’t be afraid to use lifting aids like moving straps, dollies, and hand trucks.
- Using used boxes inappropriately: Used boxes can keep your moving or shipping costs low. While they are often suitable for less valuable items or durable things, you should always use new boxes for new or delicate belongings. If you are using used boxes, inspect them carefully first for signs of damage. All boxes should be strong, dry, and damage and infestation-free. You should also remove all old address labels.
Retailers should never use used boxes to ship items to a customer—it doesn’t look professional and may lead to damage if the box can’t handle the job.
- Using the wrong packing materials: Some boxes, such as banker’s boxes, storage boxes, archive boxes, or copy paper boxes, are not designed for shipping. These boxes are designed for palletized transport, but they may still be suitable for courier services if they are properly reinforced and do not exceed 30 lbs. For heavier items, use double-walled corrugated boxes.
- Not sealing the box properly: High-quality packing tape is the only tape you should use—masking tape, duct tape, or painter’s tape are not designed for sealing boxes. Tape up all edges using the H method, and apply multiple layers of tape. Any untaped edge can be caught or torn in transit.
- Not labelling your box: If you are a retailer, ensure the shipping label is affixed to the correct side, that it can’t be ripped off, and that it is legible. Do not tape over the label to avoid any scanning issues. If you are a homeowner, label the top and at least one side of the box with what room it should go into, as well as any additional instructions like “FRAGILE” or “THIS SIDE UP”. You should also ensure that the destination address and any relevant shipping information is correct and easy to read.
6. How To Pack Large Boxes
The key to safely transporting large boxes is to pack them properly. Here’s how:
- Packing paper
- Bubble wrap—both large and small bubbles (LINK)
- Large boxes, preferably new
- High-quality packing tape
- Permanent marker
- Dolly or hand truck
- Assemble the box. Tape each seam on the bottom using the H method.
- Measure the box. You’ll need these measurements if you plan to ship your boxes using consolidated freight, or to set up an online USPS or courier pick up. Learn the proper way to measure your boxes here.
- Line the box with padding. Crumpled up newspaper or magazine pages can work for a household move, but packing paper is typically the best choice, especially for retailers. It provides the best unboxing experience, and won’t transfer ink or dye to your stuff. Large bubble wrap also works well. Whatever you do, don’t use packing peanuts—they’re not environmentally friendly, and they’ll shift around inside the box.
- Wrap items individually. Wrap each item you’ll be packing into the large box individually in packing paper, especially if you are packing fragile items like dishware, frames, or glasses.
- Load heavy items first. Placing heavy items at the bottom of the box provides a solid base, and also prevents lighter items from getting crushed. Add a layer of padding on top of the heavy items, then continue packing lighter items on top. Prevent shifting or impact damage by padding around the edges of the box.
- Pack lighter items on top. Take care to wrap each item and pad it well with other packing materials to prevent shifting. You can also load smaller boxes into a larger box using the double boxing method, as long as they are padded properly.
- Pad around each item as you pack. If you have extra space at the top of the box, fill it with soft packing materials like towels or pillows, crumpled packing paper, or bubble wrap.
- Enclose an extra label, business card, or letterhead with the shipper’s address, as well as the recipient’s address and phone number, before sealing.
- Seal the box. Use the same H method you used to secure the bottom of the box. Take care to seal each seam, and only use high-quality packing tape—masking tape and duct tape are not designed for packaging, and won’t be strong enough to survive the trip.
- Label the box. Always label special considerations such as “FRAGILE” or “THIS SIDE UP”, as well as packages that are heavy.
If you are a retailer, make sure the box is properly labelled with the appropriate shipping label, and that everything is easy to read or scan.
If you are a homeowner, label the box with the room it belongs in, and a short list of contents if relevant. You could also number the boxes as part of your inventory, if desired.
There are several ways to ship large boxes:
- Postal service (USPS)
- Courier (FedEx®, UPS®, DHL®)
- Rent a truck and move yourself
- Hire professional movers
- Rideshare or peer-to-peer shipping
- Consolidated freight
If you are shipping a single box under 70 lbs and 108”, USPS or courier services like UPS or FedEx are likely your best option. For larger or heavier boxes, shipments of more than 3 boxes, or large boxes containing fragile or valuable items, we recommend consolidated freight. TSI can help—our experienced logistics coordinators will connect you with an expert shipping company and help you create a shipping plan that works for your schedule and budget.
Shipping large boxes?
TSI can help with any size shipment.